“Why Do the White Teachers Always Quit?"

Caitlin Caswell

That morning started like any other that semester. I parked in the visitor lot at the high school in San Antonio, Texas, and showed the receptionist my ID badge with the word “SUBSTITUTE” printed in bold purple letters across the bottom. 

She smiled and waved me to a desk in the back of the office where she handed me a sticky note with a room number on it. I made my way through the school, searching for the number, as students gathered outside their advisory classes eating their breakfasts. 

I found my room—an eleventh-grade chemistry class—unlocked the door and reviewed the teacher’s lesson plans for the day. Written across the board in large letters were the classroom expectations: BE RESPECTFUL, BE RESPONSIBLE, BE READY. In retrospect, these guidelines were perhaps a reminder for me, just as much as for the students. 

After a few minutes, the students filed into the room. Most glanced at me as they walked to their desks and continued chatting unphased. A few said, “hello” or “good morning.” 

One student sat down at the lab table right next to me and asked, “So Miss is gone? You’re the new teacher?” 

I began to answer that I was only there for the day, but before I could he said, “Why do the white teachers always quit?” 

I stood silently, unsure of what to say. Students around him began listing the names of several teachers who had left in the middle of the year, all of them white. Ninety-eight percent of students at the school were children of color, mostly Latino, and 86 percent qualified for free or reduced-priced lunch. It had not escaped them that the majority of teachers who had quit did not look like them. 

Read the full story on the Alliance for Excellent Education website.